Blue Note Records Beyond the Notes

2018 • 1h 30m

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes explores the unique vision behind the iconic American jazz record label. Through rare archive footage, current recording sessions, and conversations with influential Blue Note musicians of different generations, the film reveals an inspiring quest that continues to be vital in today’s political climate.

When the German Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff started Blue Note in 1939 in New York, the two Berliners allowed the artists complete freedom and encouraged them to compose new music. Their visionary and uncompromising approach led to releases that not only revolutionized jazz but that have left an indelible imprint on art and music, including hip hop. Blue Note’s lasting influence is evident in the fact that it remains a vibrant label that insists on pushing the creative boundaries.

The present provides a point of departure from which the film recovers the past. Legendary artists Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter come together with today’s generation of groundbreaking Blue Note artists, such as Robert Glasper and Ambrose Akinmusire, to record an All-Stars album. These sessions offer an intimate window into the creative process and the transformative aspects of jazz. These reflections inevitably lead us back to the highly influential figures of the past on which the legacy of Blue Note is built: Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, and Miles Davis. Francis Wolff’s evocative photographs of these historical recording sessions and archival interviews with the artists and Alfred Lion provide an intimate look into the creation and philosophy behind some of the most seminal tracks in jazz history.

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes strives to transmit the values that jazz embodies and that Blue Note has been promoting since its inception: freedom of expression, equality, and dialogue—values we can learn from and that are as relevant today as they were when the label was founded.